Wow! For a change all the last minute repairs were to the van rather then the car, having broken down when we attended Rally Day and Castle Combe the week before. In the days immediatly preceeding the race a new gearbox, fuel pump, alternator belt and finally, having nearly given up the day before the race, fuel line! In the end of course Mikee tracked down the problem and we could go to the ball...
As I was starting a new job which required me to live away during the week on the Monday after the race, my cat Luna(tic) joined us on the drive up so that he could go stay with my parents in Crewe. Queue a manic day of driving, first to Hinkley to drop the car off with X-Spec motorsport for a new setup, then to Crewe to drop off the cat, then back to Hinkley to get the car, before finally on to Mallory Park...
.... though we gave up and slept outside X-Spec and went to Mallory in the morning :)
Having made it round from the pits to the startline warming my tyres and brakes I turned into Gerrards for the first time and instantly realised that I had not adjusted enough for the more agressive setup on the car. I had turned in to hard, causing the back end to come out....
.. initially I was able to catch the slide, holding it briefly in a drift, but then I (think I) hit a bump with the back wheels, causing the car to straighten. The slide suddenly straightened, got grip and fired inwards towards the armco at the inside of Gerrards.
The resulting impact, at about 70mph, destroyed the front end of the car and left me heavily winded and requiring a trip to the medical centre for checks.
Other then bruising from the harness and a sore neck I was fine and returned to the paddock to find Mike, Karen, Rich, Graham and most of the rest of the Subaru Cup grid setting about the car with hammers, hack saws and crowe bars! It sounds drastic, but somehow Mike directed all this chaos and got the car back together enough for scurtineering in just 1.5 hours while I went and begged the Clerk of the Course to let me race.
Fortunatly the Clerk allowed me to race, but I would be starting stone dead last on the grid. As I lined up the nerves were porbably worse then for my first race back at Snetterton and my heart was pounding. From this far back, you cannot see the lights properly so you end up watching the cars towards the front for movement to time your start, but I got away from the line OK.
Going through the first corner I was extremely cautious, not wanting to cause my second red flag of the day, and lost pretty much all of the places I had made up on the start as I was unwilling to defend into the braking zone.
This same unwillingness to defend resulted in the thing I had feared when I span on lap 7, trying to get out of the way of Kris Dunlop and some other GT250 cars which were coming up to lap me at Gerrards Out. The spin lost me the over a second and most of the positions I had managed to make up, but as I set off back down the road after Peirs Hulford, my nearest Subaru Cup rival, I finally got the crash out of my head and started driving properly again.
With peirs dropping off the pace in the latter part of the race due to overboost problems just as my pace began to improve I was quickly behind him and past the slower GT150 cars quickly and passed him into the Lake Essess on lap 9.
With my confidence coming back my times improved and I started to enjoy driving this great circuit and was delighted to have made up 8 places and finished on the Subaru Cup podium (all be it with a reduced entry list for the class on this outing).
Adrian Howells drove superbly to claim is second class win of the season, almost lapping me by the end of the race. Congratulations to Adrian and to Darren who claimed a worthy 2nd having struggled with disintigrating tyres for much of the race.
Despite the late surge in Race 1 I was still left lining up in 16th, 7 places behind Darren and 8 behind Adrian in their identical Subaru Cup cars, so to improve on my 3rd from earlier in the day would be a tall order.
Already on the outside of row 8 I darted even further to the outside on the start to take advantage of the Subaru's strong starting performance. Despite having to go round one slower starting car with two wheels on the grass, I had probably my best start of the season to move up to 7th place overall, a gain of 9 places!
Darren had also had a good start and we entered Gerrards side by side, but with the weaker outside position and well aware of how slippery the outside line of Gerrards Out was from my earlier experience, I slotted in behind him to take 2nd place in the Subaru Cup class.
With Adrian never far behind me, the 3 leading Subaru Cup cars ran nose to tail round and side by side for 6 laps until I managed to slip up the inside of Darren on the way into the Essess, finally making the move I had been tryin for the previous 3 laps to stick and holding the place through the hairpin.
I started to pull away, creating a gap of over half a second by lap 7. I started to settle down my driving, knowing this would be a long race and confident that I could keep Darren, who was busy defending against a very rapid Adrian, behind me.
On lap 8 the first signs of impending doom where showing, with drive out of Gerrards and the Essess both 'feeling strange'. As I exited the hairpin, having taken a defensive middle line with Darren and Adrian having gained through the lap, I lost all drive in 2nd gear and the Subarus shot past on either side. Finding drive in 3rd I followed Adrian into the Devils Elbow, nearly a second adrift by the time we crossed the line.
By the time we reached the hairpin again on lap 9 I had got back on the tail of Darren and Adrian, who were now fighting tooth and nail for position, but as I powered out of the corner I again lost drive.
This time I didn't have drive in any gear, with a terrible grinding sound and smoke pouring from the car I managed to park it on the Bus Stop chicane, which is used for motorcycle races at Mallory but is too narrow for cars. With marshalls running up with fire extinguishers it looked like Mallory Park luck had not changed for the better after all as I jumped over the fence to watch the rest of the race with the crowd.
The battle scarred and race weary Subaru was taken back to X-Spec in Hinkley as specialist equipment would be required to carry out the repairs to the chassis and body work. Further investigation has shown that the transmission failure was down to a snapped drive shaft :(
Mallory proved a real roller coaster ride. The damage to the car will cost a huge amount to put right, but, before the DNF in Race 2 I was probably driving better then I have all season.... I can't wait for Brands Hatch now!
Next Race - Brands Hatch - October 24th